My sense of pride has never been derived solely from my identity as a queer woman, but from my many different facets as a whole woman. In 10 years of being out I’ve felt pride in all sorts of queer spaces with people of different cultures, looks and genders. But I’ve also been ashamed of the bigotry that occurs in the queer scene, and of gender discrimination in the lesbian scene in particular. It seems our notion of queer diversity as an all-encompassing utopia bursts when you realize all the exclusivity that goes on — exclusivity that breeds alienation.
Years ago when I was a wee lesbian just starting to get myself out into the queer scene I developed strong connections with far more gay men than gay women. These men became important, valued and respected friends and, over the years, I’ve seen them encounter a lot of gender discrimination first-hand as they’ve accompanied me to various women’s parties.
The first time it happened was about six years ago at an urban queer women’s jam that has long since folded. After waiting in line for close to an hour my dear friend Shaun and I were told at the door that men had to pay double the cover charge to what a woman would pay. This irritated me but Shaun acted the cool and told me not to worry and so we continued our evening as planned and went inside.
After buying a drink and apologizing to Shaun we proceeded to loosen up and try to enjoy ourselves. At one point I snuck away to use the washroom and when I returned I found Shaun speaking to a woman I didn’t know. I soon found out that this conversation was not a friendly one and that she was telling Shaun that she was insulted that he’d come into a space where he was clearly not welcome.
I was then approached by the messenger of man-hateration herself who proceeded to tell me that she didn’t like being treated as a spectacle by my friend, who she claimed was making her uncomfortable by checking her out.
Now, as previously mentioned, Shaun is as gay as I am, so I was confused as to where this angry observation was coming from. I was also deeply offended by her accusation, but at that point I didn’t have the vocabulary to say this: that I would never bring anyone into a lesbian space who would heckle, hit on or be disrespectful to women.
It was that moment which transformed me into a different kind of angry dyke, one who hopes to see lesbian spaces that are more inclusive of all. I think our aim should be to increase our overall visibility in the queer scene, not retreat to our own corners. Blaming patriarchy only goes so far in supporting segregation and I for one would prefer to move forward to a place where queer men and women can respectfully share space than to dwell on past wrongs.
I again encountered this kind of segregation at Montreal Pride in 2006. My friends and I had bought tickets for Lesbomonde, the big dyke party. My two male friends and I bought our tickets at a Pride booth with no problems or warnings but when I got to the party with my boys the hassle began. The party promoter wouldn’t let the guys in, saying that no men were allowed. I told her that this was curious, as one of my male friends was already inside. She said it must have been because he snuck in!
When I demanded a refund — I certainly didn’t want to be celebrating Pride anywhere that my friends were not welcome — she refused, even though there had been no mention when we bought the tickets that men weren’t allowed, nor was it marked on the tickets themselves.
The experience ruined my night and my mood. That is not the effect Pride is supposed to have on you, right?
Then, just a few weeks ago, I was out with my friends on Church St when I was told by the door staff at Slack’s that each man had to be accompanied by two women. Since then I’ve heard from a lesbian friend who’s experienced this treatment with her boys too and is now boycotting Slack’s. When did this shitty rule start at the one space for dykes on Church St? Does Slack’s realize this rule alienates lesbians too? (Editor’s note: Slack’s clarifies that women do get priority at the door and that door staff aim for a two-to-one ratio inside the club, but that there is some flexibility.)
I have partied with male friends in gay men’s spaces for years — hell, I’ve even been into the Black Eagle and had a laugh with leather daddies — and I’ve only once had a bitchy comment aimed at me about my gender.
On the other hand about 80 percent of the time my gay male friends have been out with me at women’s events they’ve received some sort of negative treatment.
I’ve had enough. I won’t be a lesbian if it means allowing differences of gender to stop me from practising the very thing we fight for the most: acceptance. I think it’s time we look at ourselves in the mirror, ladies, and realize that we should treat others the way we wish to be treated.